Adultism: A Well-Kept Secret

Adultism is the term used to describe the oppression of young people by adults. An article by John Bell included this definition: “…adultism refers to behaviors and attitudes based on the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agreement. This mistreatment is reinforced by social institutions, laws, customs, and attitudes.”

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Sexting" Exposes Adultism

I started catching up with the teen “sexting” brouhaha today. One role of teenagers in a society is to shake up adult complacency and to test the limits of social behavior. This latest has certainly captured media attention. Nothing sells quite so well as teenagers and sex, does it? But you’ll never hear an adult commentator admitting that he wishes he were 16 again with a cell phone. Adults have a tendency to act as if young people live in a parallel universe that has nothing to do with them. We pretend to hold all the moral cards and pass judgment on the young from our ivory towers, even as we produce movies, TV shows and advertisements that expose our penchant for exploiting young, beautiful and sexy women.

Teens of all eras have been creative and innovative in tweaking adult sensibilities. In my high school and young adult years, free love was just getting started, pot was coming back from Viet Nam with young vets and making the rounds of ordinary kids, and music was starting to be more edgy than in previous generations. Heck, even Beatle haircuts were causing family feuds. The current “sexting” incidents are a spit in the eye to adults: you’ve created this technology, now we’re going to take it to the limit, push it in your face, see how far we can go.

I would feel a lot more comfortable about it if I knew that schools were providing comprehensive sexuality education to every teenager in the U.S., from 7th grade on and Sex Ed classes included lots and lots of discussion about relationships, identifying personal values and the sexual exploitation of girls in our culture. Since I know that our adultist society, by and large, feels compelled to withhold honest and thorough sexuality information from teenagers (we can't even talk openly about it ourselves), the idea of young high school girls sending nude photos of themselves to older teen boys is distressing because I don’t know if they understand the personal ramifications of their actions. For heaven sakes, they just need to know why sending a nude picture might come back to bite them later, and what adults who are into pornography might do with such a picture.

But, as usual, we are blaming the victims of our outdated ideas. I think it’s ridiculous to prosecute these young people as pornographers. If I were a prosecutor involved in one of these cases, I would indict the federal and local policies that prohibit comprehensive sexuality education about such an important and life-changing topic for human beings, a topic that adults need to become more comfortable in addressing.

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1 Comments:

Blogger maymay said...

I would feel a lot more comfortable about it if I knew that schools were providing comprehensive sexuality education to every teenager in the U.S., from 7th grade on and Sex Ed classes included lots and lots of discussion about relationships, identifying personal values and the sexual exploitation of girls in our culture.

Yes, exactly! But instead of education, which so many adults claim they want for their children, they instead literally brand these children not merely as criminals, but sex offenders and sentence them to a second-class status FOR LIFE. It's astonishing and infuriating and, even worse, even ostensibly freedom-loving people like sex-positive communities actually get in on the censorship action!

At a recent sexuality conference, whose own participants wished to restrict the access of teenagers, I gave a 20-minute speech about the issues of sexual adultism that you might find interesting. We must improve the way our culture deals with youth and with sexuality, and especially youth sexuality, not for us but for our children!

December 5, 2009 at 11:16 PM  

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